The Earth Sciences faculty and graduate students are engaged in a wide variety of
research, primarily within the disciplines of Geography, Geology, and Archaeology.
However, much of the research is concentrated within our principal research foci.
Research in these foci are carried out, in part, through cooperative work with the
Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI), the Center for Partnerships
in GIS (CPGIS), the Groundwater Institute (GWI), Chucalisa Museum, as well as with
other departments such as Biology, Chemistry, Anthropology, and Civil Engineering.
Research Focus Areas:
2. Active Tectonic & Dynamic Geomorphology
3. Hydrology & Water Resources
4. Geoarchaeology & Quaternary Studies
5. Spatial & Community Analysis
Many Earth Sciences faculty members and their graduate students do both applied and
basic research related to the principal research-focus: Hazards. Their research is
intertwined under the auspices of the Center for Hazard Analysis and Research at Memphis
(CHARM) and CERI. CHARM is unique in the USA in the large number of diverse faculty
devoted to research on all aspects of multi-hazard analysis. CHARM is capable of comprehensive
integrated coverage of all important aspects of natural, environmental, and man-induced
hazards from understanding the basic causes of hazards through application of multi-hazard-susceptibility
analysis to different regions, to the catastrophic impact that hazards have on people
through vulnerability and risk analysis, to hazard mitigation, to determination of
the economic and policy impact of hazards.
Faculty from all Earth Sciences disciplines are also engaged in basic research on
Active Tectonics & Orogenic Belts and Quaternary Studies & Geomorphology which also
includes investigations related to landscape evolution, climate change, and paleoecology
as well as those related to the causes of natural hazards such as active faults, landslides,
flooding, drought, severe storms, and subsidence and karst development. Through the
Hydrology and Water Resources focus, in cooperation with the Groundwater Institute
and the U. S. Geological Survey, faculty examine both environmental hazards and other
issues related to vital water resources. CHARM faculty apply basic hazard-research
and Spatial Analysis to determine both the susceptibility of different regions to
different types of hazards and to vulnerability and risk analysis, both fundamental
tools for planning sustainable growth and development, particularly of urban areas,
while protecting people from multi-hazards.
Active Tectonics & Dynamic Geomorphology
Our faculty offer unique opportunities to students who are interested in tectonics
related to active deformation and plate motions. Active tectonics projects are being
conducted in the United States, South America, Australia, Antarctica, Central America,
Caribbean islands, China, Africa, and India. A long standing area of focused research
has been the New Madrid seismic zone of the central United States where students and
faculty have conducted seismologic, seismic reflection, paleoseismologic, structural,
and stratigraphic studies.
The geomorphic research focus centers around four general themes: tectonic, fluvial,
arid, and hill slope processes and forms. Building from a foundation of these general
areas, The research is international in scope and includes studies in China, Australia,
Central America, the Caribbean, Malaysia, India, Taiwan, and numerous locations in
the northeastern, southeastern, and western United States.
Faculty members and their graduate students who study tectonics and geomorphology
within the Department of Earth Sciences take advantage of interdisciplinary research
with the U.S. Geological Survey and other academic departments within the University
of Memphis. Students can also participate in tectonic studies in classic orogenic
belts such as the Appalachians, Cordilleran, Ouachitas or Grenville or within the
cratonic interior of North America. Basin studies may be pursued using recently acquired
Landmark Graphics software. This software is particularly suited for petroleum-related
research, but is also being applied to earthquake and groundwater studies.
Hydrology & Water Resources
The Department of Earth Sciences offers a focus in Hydrology that builds upon faculty
strengths in the physical, biological and human aspects of the hydrologic cycle. Our
specialties include modern and paleo- hydrogeology, landform evolution, wetland ecology,
large river ecology, aqueous geochemistry, water resource management, hydrogeologic
modeling and the impact of climate change on water resources. Our proximity to the
Mississippi River contributes to our expertise in large river hydrology and enables
international collaboration on water resource management and issues related to large
river systems. The location of Memphis in the Mississippi embayment, with its exceptional
high-quality aquifers, provides excellent urban and natural laboratories for hydrogeologic
research, particularly given our close collaboration with the Groundwater Institute,
housed in the Herff College of Engineering here at the University of Memphis. Faculty
and researchers involved in the Hydrology focus also include members of the Biology
Department, the US Geological Survey and the Center for Earthquake Research and Information.
Geoarchaeology & Quaternary Studies
Geoarchaeology interweaves geologic techniques, GIS, remote sensing, and geophysical
techniques into Archaeology research. Quaternary studies branch out to investigate
landscape evolution, climate change, paleoecology, and active tectonics over the last
two million years. Research activities include field, laboratory, geographic information
analysis, and modeling studies that focus on the timing, causes, and mechanisms of
natural and anthropogenically forced climate change, and on the effects of past climate
changes on the physical, biological, chemical, social, and economic conditions of
the earth. University of Memphis Archaeology programs outside of Earth Sciences can
be accessed through the Archaeology web page.
Spatial and Community Analysis
The Department of Earth Sciences offers a focus in Spatial Analysis that builds upon
faculty strengths in research, education and applications development in geographic
information science and its related technologies, including geographic information
systems (GIS), Remote Sensing and Global Positioning Systems. Earth Sciences faculty
represent the University of Memphis as a lead delegate at the University Consortium
of Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) and explore advancing spatial theory and
methods with the GIScience community throughout the nation.
The spatial analysis research focus teaches students GIScience applications and design
as well as technical aspects of GIScience, including algorithms, data structures,
spatial statistics and field techniques. Research focus areas in the Earth Sciences
provide fertile areas for the exploration of spatial analysis tools and theories.
These research foci are supported by our Memphis Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis
(MCASA). In cooperation with the FEDEX Institute of Technology, faculty use the Memphis
metropolitan area as well as national and international settings as a laboratory for
their GIS related research.